Obama orders Gaddafi to step down, reasons with air force

Amidst increasing speculation the US and UK could possibly intervene in Libya with military force, President Obama announced he is keeping all options open, and ordered military transport planes into the region to help with evacuations.

­As the situation in Libya deteriorates, the speculations about foreign intervention in the country are growing.  It is speculated that the US and UK, who have already advocated for military a solution in Libya, might come in force under the guise of humanitarian assistance. 

UK is increasing its military presence on the island of Cyprus. There are two military bases there and as RT’s correspondent Natalia Novikova reports, they have seen a large number of planes landing at the bases apparently bringing military force to the island.

American President Barack Obama, in his strongest words yet against the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, said the colonel has lost all legitimacy to rule and must step down.  

Obama also mentioned he has approved of the use of American military equipment in assisting in the evacuation of foreigners from Libya

Washington has already increased its military presence in the region.

As Novikova reported, it looks like the US officials are also speaking in favor of the UK’s intial idea to establish a “No flight zone” over Libya. Tensions are growing high in the region as two US warships are already heading towards the Mediterranean Sea and they have already passed the Suez Canal. Some 400 US marines have arrived at an American naval base located on the Greek island of Crete and it does look like if Gaddafi does not step down the US is willing to support his opposition.

Watch full RT’s Natalia Novikova’s report from Cyprus

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The responsibility of protecting the anti-governmental forces has been accepted very selectively within the international community.

Just a week ago 29 peaceful demonstrators were killed in Iraq by a government propped up by thousands of US troops there. In Bahrain, demonstrators have been rioting for weeks, and authorities are firing tear gas and shooting on protestors. The US has not come out and said anything in either case, probably because of its troops in Iraq and the huge Navy base for its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.

Just a few weeks ago hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Egypt were killed by police forces and the response from Washington was a call for restraint on both sides, without any mention of international intervention. Today, when forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have to deal with protestors armed with Kalashnikovs, RPGs and highjacked tanks, the international community intellectualizes on “stopping Gaddafi firing at his people”.

Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa and European energy companies have invested a lot in the country, so calls of the international community to stop violence in Libya have more of a business tone than one of human rights protection.

Military interference into the Libyan unrest would only increase the violence in the country and aggravate the problems the Libyan people already have to encounter, believes Russian FM’s deputy and Russian President’s Middle East special envoy Aleksandr Saltanov, who expressed this opinion in a meeting on Friday with Ali ben Hasan Jaafar, the Saudi ambassador to Moscow.

The latest word from Washington is that a no flight zone over Libya is being considered, which contradicts the opinion of the head of Pentagon who earlier stated that such a blockade would be an act of war because it would require bombing Libya’s air defenses.

The presence of British Special Forces in Benghazi has been justified as an attempt to secure several tons of mustard gas and other potential chemical weapons that are thought to be in the country.

On Friday the violence has continued, particularly in the east of Libya where governmental troops have been firing on rebel forces. Rebel leaders say that they will not give in until Gaddafi steps down; Gaddafi says that he is going nowhere.

­Meanwhile, a ship carrying about $160 million worth of Libyan currency has been impounded after unsuccessfully trying to dock in Tripoli, a British government official reported Friday.

The official said the ship — whose nationality and ownership the spokesperson refused to identify — returned to Britain after the crew decided not to dock at Tripoli harbor because of the unrest there. The ship was escorted by a Border Agency cutter to the port of Harwich in eastern England.

A number of containers full of currency were moved from the ship to a secure location.

Fierce battles have broken out across Libya between the opposition and Gaddafi forces on Friday, which has been dubbed in several North African and Middle Eastern countries a “Day of Rage.”

Dozens are said to have been killed in the fighting.

RT's correspondent Paula Slier reports from the Tunisian-Libyan border that Gaddafi’s forces, which are currently positioned there, are preventing people from traveling through.

The border between Tunisia and Libya is currently closed, but yesterday up to 35,000 Bangladeshi workers walked out of Libya and are now in refugee camps.  There are about 60,000 people in a state of complete uncertainty about what will happen within hours and what they should do.

Numerous violent clashes took place between Gaddafi’s supporters and anti-government rebels groups in the oil-rich port of Ras Lanuf. Rebels say they are heading to the capital of Tripoli, where dozens have also been killed and injured in demonstrations on Friday.

Slier reported that most Libyans she has talked to do not welcome a possible intervention by foreign forces.

Libyans say that they are simply fearful that the term “humanitarian assistance” is a cover for what really is an attempt by those in international community to safeguard their interests in Libya.

Paul Harris, editor of the AxisOfLogic.com news website, says the UK and the US are interested not in bringing in humanitarian aid to Libya, but in gaining control of the country’s oil.

“If these countries are so interested in humanitarian aid, where were they in Sudan, in the Democratic Republic of Congo?”, he asked. “They have their interests in Libya, of course, because of the oil in Libya… I have to guess at this point that they are probably going to go in. I frankly would be really surprised if they are not already there.”

Alexander Kazamias, a senior political science professor at Coventry University, believes that the question is not whether an intervention will happen, but rather how it will be organized, and who will take part in it.

“I think it would be important in any form of military intervention to try and involve other actors beside NATO and the United States and its Western allies – such as Russia, for example, or even the Arab League, in order to give it necessary legitimacy,” said Kazamias.

­War correspondent and independent investigator Keith Harmon Snow says Muammar Gaddafi has served his purpose and now the US wants Libya's natural resources.

“US interests are clearly to just open up the country for further exploitation of uranium and gold,” he said. “Gaddafi has managed to run the country, a lot of people have complaints about his running that country for many years, but if he was allowed to do what any normal government would be allowed to do to protect their own interests instead of being charged with attacking his own people and committing genocide, which is not true, then Gaddafi would maintain the stability that is necessary.  Of course, the West does not want Gaddafi in power at all, regardless of the fact that he’s been working with them for the last eight to 10 years to serve Western interests.”